A preview for the story's second chapter. Chapters will probably be a monthly thing, seeing as how I'm going to make them fairly long. This preview is up because I felt bad about losing the second chapter, and felt that you guys deserved to see something of the upcoming work.

Now, for fans of the Original...the Old Man.

Seldon


The rain was constant, steady, unrelenting. It was as though Heaven itself had opened up the flood gates and was trying to drown the city. Shops closed and people fled for the dry safety of their apartments, leaving the heart of Tokyo-3 deserted and unnaturally quiet. Not even the scavengers were out in the heart of this downpour, as if they had sensed something not at all natural about it. Something frightening.

Lightning flickered overhead, sending down sinuous tongues of liquid fire to screech and claw at the impregnable obelisks that towered over the city basin. Inside those buildings people shrieked and jumped with every near-miss, only to turn to their loved ones and laugh about it nervously, even as the wind outside their windows roared its frustration.

It was a night fit not for even the meanest of beasts, and so was perfect for the needs of one old, tired man.

He tried to keep to the side streets, moving awkwardly from building-to-building in a half-staggered limp that he helped along with an old, brass-tipped cane. Still, it was tricky work, for the sidewalks were slick with oil, and the heavy pack he carried on his back made his limp even more unpredictable. Still, he had to do this. Despite the pain from his old injuries, despite the exhaustion from carrying his burdens, he had to do this. For if he did not, then no one would.

He stopped to check his bearings. The street signs were unpredictable, and quite often misleading in this city of mirrors, but he was almost certain that he was in the right place. "Now," he muttered, digging out a slip of scratch paper from his pocket. "Number 3, Seventh Floor."

He threw the paper into a nearby wastebasket and headed into the lobby of a skyscraper. The interior was very lavish. Marble pillars and lush, thick carpeting. A thick, impressive and deserted reception desk that was flanked by two sweeping stairs that led to a second balcony. That balcony had a bank of elevators on it, and a fire stairwell.

"Heh, must be loaded..."

He took the stairs. Didn't trust the elevators. Too many cameras looking at him already. The old man pulled the wide-brimmed hat down further over his face, his eyes already darting around to see if anyone was hiding nearby.

Finally, the door. It opened quickly, and he slid inside without hesitation. Another old man in a expensive silk suit was waiting there, staring at the stranger who was dripping water onto the floor of his home. "Are you-...are you the one?"

A nod. "I have everything you need here. Mr. Aida." The old man lowered his heavy pack to the ground, setting it down gently, as though it were very precious. "Are you certain you want to do this?" When Aida did not answer, the old man smiled grimly, "You'll be killed, that's certain. Probably tortured first, though."

Aida ground his teeth together, "Are you afraid I'll tell them about you? I won't!"

The old man laughed, startling Aida. "Oh, how naive! Of course you'll tell them about me, Mr. Aida. Sooner or later you'll crack under the pressure, and you'll talk before you die. But I'm not worried about that. You know nothing of me, nothing of the organization."

"Then...what-?"

The old man glared at Aida, silencing the question before it began. "I'm worried that you won't follow through. That you'll fail. That you'll crack before you've even finished. If that's the case, then I'll pick up that bag and walk away, and you'll never see me again."

The silence was broken only by the plip, plip-plip of the water that dripped off of the old man's coat.

Aida closed his eyes, trying to peer within the depths of his soul to find an answer to something that could not be answered. He saw only the thin darkness of his eyelids. "I...don't know," he finally answered. "I hope...I want..."

"Want? What could a man like you possibly want?" The old man drew out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, exhaling a sharp-smelling cloud that obscured his face.

Aida opened his eyes and let the tears come running down his face. "I want revenge!"

"Oh?" the old man looked bemused.

Aida nodded, "Yes. Revenge. I want to make them suffer. Just as they made my...my son-!" He couldn't talk anymore. His throat had tightened down on the anguish that threatened to well up from within. So he stood there, silently weeping, waiting for a judgment. From this man? No. From the gods, perhaps.

A hand gently touched him, a slight pressure, and then the door opened. When Aida opened his eyes the stranger had gone. He started forward, trying to call him back; to beg with him, plead with him.

He tripped on the bag that had been left behind.

For a moment all he could do was stare at it. Then, he felt it, as if he was trying to reassure himself that it was real. That it was really real. Then, a cruel smile slowly blossomed on his face. A savage grin that paled next to the hatred in his cold, emotionless eyes.

"I will avenge you," he whispered. "Kensuke...I'll make those bastards pay."

Back out on the wet streets again, the old man raised his head to the clouds and gazed into the dark belly of the beasts above. After a while he lowered his head and continued on, his mind already moving on to other things, turning to darker thoughts.

"So it goes," he muttered.